Long-read

Standing on the shoulders of the masses

The public and the experts are key to beating Covid-19.

Norman Lewis

It might sound callous – indeed, perverse – to suggest that the coronavirus crisis represents a moment of historical clarification which we should welcome. But it does. It has begun to illuminate the pivotal and foundational role the masses play in developing society’s problem-solving expertise, and their restraining influence on elite hubris and self-indulgence.

This is a moment of clarity which might not be immediately obvious. It is always difficult to recognise an historical shift, particularly when you are living through it. We all succumb to living in the past, fighting today’s battles with yesterday’s tools and prejudices – especially when the present appears to be so threatening and out of control.

If we are able to put politics to one side (difficult) and stand back from the immediacy of the apocalyptic doom-mongering (even more difficult), it should be clear that something new and unfamiliar is taking place. Covid-19 is infecting more than people. It has turned existing orthodoxies on their heads – like the idea that those in power and in control of society always act rationally and in the interests of society, as opposed to the claimed irrationality of the masses.

Another, and the focus of this article, is the role of experts and the idea that technocratic managerialism is necessary and inevitable because of the complexity of modern society. The coronavirus crisis has in fact brought to the fore the intimate connection between the masses and experts, and the mediation of this relationship through democracy.

This has been most evident in the different ways in which the UK government initially reacted to the crisis compared to our European neighbours, particularly Italy, France and Spain. Instead of a rush to draconian lockdowns, prime minister Boris Johnson began with a public-facing, measured and mature appeal to reason as he outlined a plan based upon scientific evidence.

Why was there this difference? Well, because of Brexit. Not because we are not part of the EU, but because, in the UK, the influence of the demos is now palpable and real. Boris was not simply addressing the media in the room at his early press conferences. He was also addressing the demos, who reasserted themselves more than three years ago and have continued to shape politics ever since.

The unseen presence of the demos initially acted as a restraint on the instinctive rush to authoritarianism we have seen elsewhere. The fact that Johnson now seems to have been forced to go much further, and has succumbed to the macabre pressure by the media to be seen to be acting, should not detract from the significance of this all for the future.

The past, as they say, is another country. What is unfamiliar and now casts a new shadow over past assumptions is the ascendancy of the demos. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the role of experts.

Now, the early press conferences where Boris was flanked by the government’s chief science adviser, Patrick Vallance, and chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, looked like many past press conferences. Here was a prime minister flanked by ‘his’ experts. But when the experts began explaining the complexities of dealing with an unknown virus, we saw, in public, for the first time in many years, what true expertise looks like, with all its inherent ambiguities and uncertainties.

The experts, just like Boris, were not simply addressing the media in the room. They were addressing society as a whole. They revealed that they are not merely Boris’s experts, but ours too; that, ultimately, their authority and legitimacy depend upon their ability to solve this problem, not just for a Tory government, but for humanity as a whole.

This is a moment of clarity. Experts are not owned by governments. They are owned by us, the people – by humanity as a whole. The politicisation of expertise, whereby politicians have hidden behind so-called experts to avoid public accountability, has not elevated experts – it has abused them. It has forced experts to go beyond their areas of expertise to suit political expediency. This politicisation of expertise has denigrated expertise and the expert.

But what was demonstrated that day in Downing Street, even in the midst of a real health crisis, was that experts are rooted in solving the problems of society as a whole; that the mass of humanity, its needs and wants, remain the infrastructural foundation of all expertise. This is what creates and sustains expertise, and what ultimately lends it its authority and legitimacy in society (insofar as experts succeed at solving problems).

Covid-19 has unexpectedly revealed the reality that the masses are pivotal to society’s expertise. What makes this so welcome is that this role is misunderstood and mystified, precisely because, in normal circumstances, it is hidden from history.

It is easy to understand why. In the first instance, the spotlight of history inevitably focuses on the expert, the ingenious inventor or the brilliant scientist, not the masses. We are all familiar with names like Da Vinci, Galileo, Newton, Curie, Einstein, Edison, and more recently Jobs. These were all extraordinary individuals whose differing achievements changed the world for the better.

But these individuals were just a few in a broader swathe of humanity that sought to discover or invent the future. And their success could only emerge because of the social division of labour existing during their lifetimes.

Sir Isaac Newton was in fact wrong and one-sided when he famously declared in 1675: ‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ In reality, his genius also crucially rested on the shoulders of the masses whose labours gave him, and others, the freedom to follow their curiosity, to try to make sense of mankind’s position within nature. Without the reproduction of material conditions of life by the faceless masses, society would have been robbed of these great men’s destinies and achievements.

But the masses also play another critical, but indirect, role in all human discovery and invention. For the truly great thinkers have themselves always appreciated that humanity in the abstract was sitting on their shoulders, constantly and critically looking at their endeavours. These are the same masses that have perched invisibly on the shoulders of Johnson and ‘his’ experts today.

The truly great thinkers, inventors and experts have always understood the debt of gratitude they owe to those whose labours have made theirs possible. Not being burdened with the day-to-day production of the means of life imposed a deep sense of responsibility on them. For all their egos and dreams of self-grandeur they were sincerely motivated to answer life’s big questions not simply for themselves, nor for their careers or paymasters, but for all of mankind.

Take Albert Einstein, who remarked upon the contrast between his ‘passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility’ and his ‘pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities’. Or Alexander Fleming, the accidental discoverer of penicillin, who only did so because he had devoted years of his life to finding the means of fighting bacterial infections, which he considered the most dangerous illnesses threatening the human race.

Here we see a deep sense of accountability, a sense that their endeavours should improve the condition of their fellow human beings. The presence of the masses weighs upon the heroic endeavours of society’s experts – past, present and future.

The masses are not a blank canvas on which the destinies of great men are drawn. Instead, the emergence of new social needs and wants has always forced discoverers to shift their focus, to the ends of improving human society. Meeting changing needs and wants is the unstated driver of progress. This is why change is never random nor something that can be imposed simply because experts say so.

The insight this affords, which we should not lose sight of in our present circumstances, is that the remarkable knowledge, science and technological expertise we enjoy today is rooted in our sociality. The capacity to solve problems, to explore and to discover, is deeply rooted in what it means to be human. This is the everlasting outcome of the social interaction between brilliant individuals and mass needs and wants. From the moment we got down from the trees, stood upright, and began to challenge the limits nature imposed on us, mankind has had to develop a social division of labour, to cooperate and to specialise to ensure our survival as a species.

This also needs to be kept in mind, because it helps demystify expertise and the expert. Progress has always required specialisation. And while this has given us skills and some remarkable talent historically, we mustn’t forget that specialisation represents the curtailment of the potential abilities of every person taken individually. Expertise is a socially liberating force. But it is also an individually inhibiting freedom; ‘not a virtue but an unavoidable evil’, as the great Austrian physicist Schrödinger put it.

It is perhaps the cruellest irony of the human condition. For some to stand, as Plato stated, ‘under the shelter of the wall’, others had to build that wall. In Plato’s time, it was slaves who provided that shelter. In ours, it is a more specialised and technologically determined division of labour. The deprivation of freedom for the many has been a condition for the limited freedom of some to dream, experiment, even fail, so that the many can eventually be lifted out of darkness, drudgery and deprivation. The history of mankind’s achievements rests on the crushed souls of millions of unsung generations.

There is an unwritten dependence, a spontaneously reproduced cooperative dynamic, that underpins modern civilisations. But mutual dependence does not imply equivalence. Expertise is hierarchical, specific, and so it should be. There is an inherent difference between knowledge disciplines and skills, between mental and manual labours.

In the field of knowledge there is inevitably inequality. But we overcome this inherent dislocation through the sphere of politics; through the beautiful simplicity of the idea that, in a democracy, everyone’s vote, regardless of what skill or expertise they might possess, counts the same – from lords to street cleaners to scientists to bricklayers to astronauts to nurses.

Democracy provides the mechanism for negotiating the inherent contradiction between political equality and knowledge inequality. It is the sphere in which whatever expertise we have been forced to adopt is jettisoned in favour of what we all have in common – our humanity, our reason and judgement, our universal needs and wants, regardless of race or sex. Democracy is thus the condition upon which society’s division of labour and its expertise is ultimately legitimised and accepted. It is how we hold not just politicians but also experts to account.

Yet despite the contradictions, human expertise must be vigorously defended and celebrated. For after all, the curtailment of individual freedom, which underpins all expertise, has been a condition for liberating humanity from the biological limitations nature imposed upon us as a species. So it has been, and certainly so will it be, in the battle against Covid-19.

Perhaps it is now clearer why the coronavirus crisis is a moment of clarity to be welcomed. It has demonstrated the intimate connection between democracy and the legitimisation of expertise. The masses have forced their way into the public realm in ways that few could have imagined a year ago. Their presence has been a restraint, a reminder of where the authority of expertise ultimately rests. The genie is out of the bottle and cannot be put back regardless of how this crisis unfolds.

Whatever happens from here on in, the emphasis has to be on the need for society to build more walls so that a lot more of humanity can participate and shine under their shelter.

We need to extend our expertise. But we also need more scepticism, the questioning of new orthodoxies, and more demands for public accountability of politicians and experts. Because this, and only this, will enable us to develop the kind of problem-solving skills we will need in the 21st century. It is also what will provide expertise with the authority, legitimacy and the trust that is so central to its proper functioning, but which could so easily be undermined in the apocalyptical rush to authoritarianism.

Dr Norman Lewis is a writer and managing director of Futures Diagnosis.

Picture by: Getty.

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Comments

Abbie Jhone

10th April 2020 at 6:02 pm

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Abbie Jhone

10th April 2020 at 5:41 pm

mister wallace

4th April 2020 at 10:38 pm

Standing on the shoulders? More like the throats.

Peter Gardner

30th March 2020 at 6:13 am

“But when the experts began explaining the complexities of dealing with an unknown virus, we saw, in public, for the first time in many years, what true expertise looks like, with all its inherent ambiguities and uncertainties.”
Indeed and not just in relation to coronavirus. In climate science there is the same phenomena. When you read truly scientific papers, you often don’t get certainty, you get uncertainties, assumptions, what-ifs, tentative conclusions and more questions. Regrettably the politicisation of climate science has now led to increasing asides in scientific papers attributing changes in, say to antarctic ice shelves, to anthropogenic warming not because that cause was a possibility studied in the paper but because it is the thing to say to show you’re still on board with the so-called consensus and should be allowed to keep your job.

George Whale

23rd March 2020 at 12:32 pm

Simon Jenkins in “Why I’m taking the coronavirus hype with a pinch of salt”, Guardian, 6th March 2020:

“In 1997 we were told that bird flu could kill millions worldwide. Thankfully, it did not. In 1999 European Union scientists warned that BSE ‘could kill 500,000 people’. In total, 177 Britons died of vCJD. The first Sars outbreak of 2003 was reported by as having ‘a 25% chance of killings tens of millions’ and being ‘worse than Aids’. In 2006, another bout of bird flu was declared ‘the first pandemic of the 21st century’, the scares in 2003, 2004 and 2005 having failed to meet their body counts.

“Then, in 2009, pigs replaced birds. The BBC announced that swine flu ‘could really explode’. The chief medical officer, Liam Donaldson, declared that ‘65,000 could die’. He spent £560m on a Tamiflu and Relenza stockpile, which soon deteriorated. The Council of Europe’s health committee chairman described the hyping of the 2009 pandemic as ‘one of the great medical scandals of the century’.”

We’ve been here before.

Jerry Owen

23rd March 2020 at 12:22 pm

1

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

23rd March 2020 at 1:01 pm

2

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

23rd March 2020 at 1:01 pm

Are you learning to count, Jerry?

Christopher Tyson

23rd March 2020 at 11:19 am

‘you need a busload of faith to get by’
-Lou Reed

At some point, Wittgenstein believed that he had solved all the problems of philosophy. I once found Wittgenstein intriguing, please don’t ask me to explain his philosophy, I was attracted to the myth and mystique of Wittgenstein, perhaps even his mysticism, there may or may not be some irony here.
Here is a quote from Wittgenstein:
‘My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.)’
‘Walls’ are a recurring trope for song writers. Notably Pink Floyd’s double album ‘The Wall’, literally about the alienated Rock Star but also about many other things and people. The Wall is raised, and the Wall must be broken down.
I would go back a little further to Paul Simon’s ‘I am a Rock’, ‘I build Walls, a fortress deep and mighty, that none may penetrate’, I quote that from memory, the song was about protecting and defending oneself ‘a rock feels no pain, an island never cries’.
I saw REM live in 1989 or 1990, Michael Stipe was in his pomp, one of my favourite gig moments was their performance of ‘World Leader Pretend’. Stipe was known for his inaudible and frankly incomprehensible lyrics.
For some reason the lyrics of this song were printed on the jacket (I had a cassette version), unique for REM at that time. I speculated that maybe REM had something important to say. Now we have ‘google’. One plausible explanation is that Stipe wanted to make a distinction between have ‘raised’ a wall and as the song progresses ‘razed’ the wall, the same word when sung or spoken.
I do not expect people to share my interpretations, and hopefully they will check out the original songs for themselves.

Steve Gray

23rd March 2020 at 10:46 am

For the benefit of anyone who doesn’t grasp the connecion between the person who makes the pencil and the person who writes with it :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xrfbKTG_xE

In Negative

23rd March 2020 at 9:52 am

“Take Albert Einstein, who remarked upon the contrast between his ‘passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility’ and his ‘pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities’. ”

This Albert Einstein fella sounds like another workshy hippie to me.

K Tojo

23rd March 2020 at 11:49 am

Who was it who said:
“When I hear the word ‘culture’ I reach for my gun”?

If I had a gun I would reach for it when I hear the word “social”.

Morona Virus

23rd March 2020 at 9:12 am

Our society will come stronger out of this. My feeling is that we could be overly fearful of the “authoritarianism” of a temporary enforced shutdown of society, and the curtailment of our practical liberty to go about our normal lives. It is a temporary measure to get us through a crisis.

We enjoy immense liberty in this society and we need perhaps the humility to accept that our norm is not normal, that it is extraordinary, which is why we celebrate it. By the same token, do not act so aghast if we have to cut back our horizons for a few months.

It is likely that the shutdown will give some context, some perspective to our usual everyday freedom. In a few months we will be eager to fling that door open, step into the sun and to go back to the pubs and restaurants. We will have a fresh outlook on getting on the tube to get to work, shoulder to shoulder with others. To be able to chat freely without fear of contamination.

We will appreciate and celebrate our liberties all the more for a temporary deprivation of them. This stupid virus will leave us stronger as a society, more appreciative of liberty. We will demand ever more liberty as we renew our taste for it. Whatever does not kill us makes us stronger.

So lets get through this crisis, accept emergency measures, and we can come stronger as a society out of this when it is over. I am self-isolating simply because I do not want to die, or to contribute to the death of others like the elderly. I want to survive this and to then continue to enjoy life. We sleep to wake, we cut back to then expand. We do whatever we have to to survive this and then we appreciate and enjoy life all the more.

Graham Southern

23rd March 2020 at 9:03 am

The point is that the ‘masses’ are far better informed and with far more security and leisure time than ever before. They can think for themselves and have far less automatic deference for the ‘experts’ paraded before them. Like a plumber, an expert is judged on the job he or she actually does.

Philip Humphrey

23rd March 2020 at 9:30 am

That is a good point. Experts like economists with an unfailingly dismal record of predictions (the bank of England forecasts being among the worst) are not respected by the public. Experts in the hard sciences are usually respected because they are usually found to be correct. Climate science probably falls between the two extremes and the public is divided about it. Some on the left seemed to think that we should let the opinions of experts overrule public opinion and votes (as in Brexit). But I think experts should be judged on their record of predictions before taking their advice.

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

23rd March 2020 at 1:06 pm

The only people genuinely able to comment on the adequacy of an ‘expert’ such as epidemiologist are those people who are themselves trained and experienced in epidemiology. The ‘masses’ (i.e. just about everybody else, including non-epidemiologist medics) are not really qualified to comment on the judgements and competence of someone with years of experience in a highly complex field. You don’t ask a plumber to remove a brain tumour.

HABEO DICERE

23rd March 2020 at 1:52 pm

I would not ask an epidemiologist either; reductio ad absurdum.

Lyn Keay

23rd March 2020 at 4:46 pm

I disagree. Sometimes you need an outside opinion. Quite often someone not as close to something has an insight that someone in a narrow specialism misses. There are some famous examples that I can’t remember right now.

And, anyway, as a mathematician I can tell you that even though the stochastic modelling used to determine by our government to determine how easy / difficult it is to do contact tracing are correct in an off themselves, they do not tell us when we should have given up contact tracing for people infected with Covid-19, which by the success that the Asian countries are having with using it to control their outbreakes without smashing the Economy was clearly not as soon as we did. Neither do I need to be an epidemiologist to ask why the transmission model we are using to predict what this outbreak will do is using parameters based on influenza transmission, when the World Health Organisation have much better parameters based on the China Covid-19 outbreaks.

What I want to know is how we hold these experts to account? Because the science journalists who had a press Q&A with them don’t deserve the name.

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

24th March 2020 at 1:11 pm

LYN KEAY — If you are a mathematician, then you are, technically, an expert in stochastic modelling. Your expertise qualifies you to discuss this, and disagree in an informed manner with government policy. I don’t have a problem with that. What I object to is people suggesting that we should automatically submit to the ‘wisdom of crowds’, as if the People always know best. I’m sorry, but in this instance I would rather leave the issue to people who have been studying and working in epidemiology and public health for decades rather than medically illiterate types such as myself. Truth has never been decided by democracy.

Mick Miller

27th March 2020 at 9:30 pm

As Pilate asked Jesus “What is truth?” If you read around widely enough you’ll discover there are variations of the truth in the case of the UK epidemic because of the limits of even expert knowledge, in this case thanks to lack of data. The Imperial model of the disease in the UK is not the only one. Then it comes down to who decides what truth is the true truth? Oxford’s modellers aren’t so sure about Imperial’s model, but they are hardly heard. Even in Climate Change there are more than 20 models, the range of outcomes is spread across them to a greater or lesser extent, the Russian model being the least pessimistic, but thanks to its origins, one less believed.

DAVID MALAN

23rd March 2020 at 8:48 am

Oh here we go: ” It has begun to illuminate the pivotal and foundational role the masses play in developing society’s problem-solving expertise, and its It has begun to illuminate the pivotal and foundational role the masses play in developing society’s problem-solving expertise, and its restraining influence on elite hubris and self-indulgence.” This will be the same “masses” that are emptying supermarket shelfs of virtually anything that matters, the same “masses” that all piled out of their homes this weekend into the sunshine to the extent that the PM is hving to threaten legislation to force people to keep their distance from each other because the “masses” will not behave. And before anyone says it, I’m not generalising any more than the author has done. I can’t get over this blinkered nonsense eg. ” the RESTRAINING influence of the masses”

Morona Virus

23rd March 2020 at 9:51 am

The other side of the coin is that folk who hamster will then be able to self-isolate for an extended period. If that is what they are doing then good on them.

Boris seems to want us to carry on at the supermarkets as usual. That makes no sense; the easiest way to spread a virus through a community is to get all of them passing together through the same buildings. Boris is doing half measures, asking us not to go to parks but cramming us all into supermarkets, tube trains, busses and workplaces.

If he is going to shut down and reorganise the society for the duration of the crisis then he needs to do that properly. Food distribution by delivery only for the duration. Surely we can cope with that for a few months while we completely eradicate this virus.

Boris looks like he is posturing, that he is pretending, that he wants to be seen to be doing something when really he is not doing enough. He needs to accept that capitalism, and the normal operation of society, is on hold for a few months.

Get everyone indoors by order except for really essential workers like in food distribution, medical care and social order, the real basics. No more nonsense and half measures. Boris needs to man up and to get the job done.

Steve Roberts

23rd March 2020 at 8:38 am

Spiked .. Humanity is underrated. Here we have a perfectly apt and powerful article extolling the virtues of our universal humanity, inspiring stuff.
This irrational and destructive virus panic will end as all virus events do every single year, it is quite possible that with the exception of spikes and clusters, geographically and within previously ill patients it will be recorded in a similar manner to previous viruses, that does not reduce the sadness of lives lost but the reality of viral management perennially.
What is different is the reaction from the elites and the judgements they have made on the plethora of competing extrapolations and expectations by experts in their field.
Here in the UK it effectively means that the arbitrary figure from Ferguson of a potential 250k deaths has been accepted and we are now seeing the social and economic effects.
There is a huge conflict arising, a tension , we are told on one hand that we face deaths on an unprecedented scale ,yet at the same time told that for the majority of the population it will pass with no treatment and now the PM suggesting the virus will be in retreat in 3 mths and that their action are having an effect, which scenario is it?
The irrationality is creating so many conflicting and illogical actions and statements.
When all this is over there will be a period of reflection for all citizens,it is us that are paying the price and will be forced to do so further in future for this madness.
It is then that we may realise this as a defining moment , possibly larger than Brexit, the social and economic destruction is incomparable, we need to reassert ourselves as the social force in society when the elites place themselves before us, democracy can be a wonderful thing.
But be wary, the elites have dug some very large holes here for society, there aim will be to appear as the saviours, the good guys, safe in their hands dragging us out of the hole they dug themselves.
As I said we will all need to reflect to look back who said and did what, it may well define which direction society takes and who if anyone we can entrust the leadership of society with. Critical, objective rational reflection will be required and accountability.

Philip Humphrey

23rd March 2020 at 7:57 am

One slight quibble. When he said he stood on the shoulders of giants, Newton was most likely referring to the medieval scholastics and monks who pursued science and studied throughout the so called dark and middle ages. Like any good scientist, he was acknowledging that he was building on what went before. It’s quite interesting that he lived during a time when the middle ages were written off as backward, superstitious and ruled by an overbearing catholic church. The reformers of the time saw themselves as a source of enlightenment, and what went before them as darkness and ignorance. And that prejudice remains today, the middle ages are still written off as backwards and ruled by an overbearing church keen to silence knowledge, even in places like universities that should know better. Proper study reveals the very reverse is true, science progressed throughout western history from the middle ages onwards, the idea of a sudden “enlightenment” is largely invention, as Sir Isaac would well have known.

Stephen J

23rd March 2020 at 7:21 am

There doesn’t seem to be much point in commenting here, the autmod is stifling speech.

Melissa Jackson

23rd March 2020 at 8:39 am

You have the right to speak, but the bot has the right not to listen 😉

Stephen J

23rd March 2020 at 7:21 am

Regarding the worldwide panic that has been generated by governments.

If there had instead been a little bit more honesty amongst them at the outset, rather than what appears to be in regard to this and everything else, a total suspension of reality. e.g. Climate change, and the replacement of effective personal transport with nonsense electricity, which still has to be generated from fossil fuel, if it is to be a reliable supply. The list goes on.

In this instance the “jaune péril”, thought that saving face was more important than saving life, so they hid their nasty little virus. Another example might be others, including ours, who carried on importing folk, be they nationals or foreigners from the places where infections were known to be spiking, and apparently, we still are, at the same time that they are telling us to suspend real life.

Once they realised that this is quite virulent, they began to exercise as much authoritarian restraint as they thought they could get away with, which as the writer says is currently a bit less here than in many less nationally aware peoples, due to the current globalist trajectory.

So we don’t really know what is going to happen, although if the folk mentioned above (in less than flattering code, in order to get past the auto-mod) can be believed, it is tailing off a bit now in that region. Hmmm.

Callous bit…

In 2019 there were 6,507 suicides in the UK.

Stats like that, are available for many contagions and psychological disorders. Putting “the virus” into context makes for somewhat different reading.

Are we living through yet more government managed suspension of reality?

Who can say? But be sure that plenty of mileage is being generated amongst government types, during this particular “beneficial crisis”.

George Whale

23rd March 2020 at 6:29 am

‘The masses’ please note: this is a communist website.

David George

23rd March 2020 at 7:15 am

That essay was an encapsulation of conservative philosophy. The organic, upward and downward flow of responsibility, contribution and value and power. What was communist about it. The use of masses?

George Whale

23rd March 2020 at 1:43 pm

Precisely: I’ve never once heard the term used by a non-communist.

Also:

– Spiked founder Mick Hume, former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party and editor of Living Marxism.

– Spiked editor Brendan O’Neill, self-declared Marxist and also a former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party.

David Webb

23rd March 2020 at 2:35 am

Another idiot who insists on moderating his comments because he opposes free speech.

David Webb

23rd March 2020 at 2:34 am

Another laughable article by a Communist. The “masses” made no contribution to Isaac Newton’s discoveries. There are plenty of other countries where the workers toiled and allowed a life of leisure for the well-heeled – in fact, this is the case in every country – but where are the African Isaac Newtons? Where is China’s contribution (other than just borrowing our technology)? Where is India’s? What are you talking about. Spiked should ditch the Communists and only run articles by rational thinkers.

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

24th March 2020 at 1:13 pm

You are right that Newton’s discoveries were, ultimately, a product of Newton’s genius, but he was working in a certain socio-economic, political and intellectual context that allowed him to reach his conclusions. It is extremely difficult to separate individual genius from context.

Ellen Whitaker

23rd March 2020 at 1:35 am

Experts almost always disagree about some things. Whenever they disagree about a public issue, the public has to make a choice.

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

23rd March 2020 at 1:06 pm

Is truth decided by democracy?

KATHLEEN CARR

23rd March 2020 at 8:10 pm

Also we no longer respect authority-we have all read of cases where something was overlooked or went wrong-sometimes really badly like Mid-Staffs and we don’t want to be the unlucky one. Someone serious and scientific really needs to explain , in layman’s terms, what is the general strategy and why and what we can all do to help to solve this current virus problem.

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